John Kerrigan, the longtime Harwood Union High School coach, was inducted into the RunVermont Hall of Fame last Friday in ceremonies at the Doubletree Hotel in South Burlington.
Kerrigan began coaching at Harwood in 1978, when cross-country was only a club sport. He has also coached track and field and Nordic skiing at Harwood, amassing 44 Vermont state championships. Of those 44, 12 have been won by girls cross-country teams and 13 by the boys teams — including a girls title last fall.
Kerrigan reflected on how his coaching philosophy developed.
“As a freshman in high school,” he said, “I was a prolific runner. I got all kinds of attention from friends but especially the coaching staff. After suffering from a rare form of cancer, I lost my edge and was a mediocre runner at best. No longer did I receive attention from anyone — friends or coaches. I probably needed it more than ever at this time in my life, but it never came.
“I decided that, if I ever had the opportunity to coach, I would treat everyone as if they were a star because, as Fred Rogers said, ‘As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable they are.’ That everyone has something inside of them that no one else has. It makes them unique. It is our job as teachers and as coaches to discover that uniqueness and provide ways of developing its expression.’”
“Kerrigan has been a staple in the running community not just at Harwood, but across the entire state of Vermont,” said Chris Langevin, Harwood athletic director. “John has been one of the most successful coaches in terms of championships, and in creating a lifelong love for running among his student-athletes.”
The RunVermont Hall of Fame was formed to recognize individuals who had participated in every running of the Vermont City Marathon since its inception. When the event reached its 20th anniversary in 2008, the organization broadened its recognition to people whose efforts have supported running in Vermont.